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#FCCreators: In Conversation With Illustrator, Rachel McCulloch

Author Editor - 5 minute read
Last year, we launched our Community Connection campaign – a global initiative where we swapped French for ‘Community’, supporting and celebrating our local and wider communities during these strange times.

Our community continues to be more important than ever. As a branch of our Community Connection campaign, for autumn winter we’re continuing to celebrate and put the spotlight on creative talents, artists and inspiring individuals. We will be sharing their stories, talents, passions and give a behind the scenes look into their industry and life, forming our French Connection community of creators, #FCCreators.

Introducing our next #FCCreator, Brighton based illustrator and fashion designer, Rachel McCulloch. With fine pens and graphite pencils in hand, Rachel combines her passions for fashion and illustration into her work.  We caught up with Rachel to discuss her journey, her illustration style and creative processes, plus future plans ahead...

Rachel, tell us a little bit about yourself...

I live in Brighton with my husband and two daughters. I have worked as an illustrator and fashion designer since graduating with a degree in design.


How did you get into illustration?

Since I could first hold a pencil, the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do is draw. My school textbooks were full of my sketches and very little else!

During my a-levels I learned you could get paid to draw people as a fashion designer and this is the route I took. I've always enjoyed designing clothes along with full illustrations, even when they’re not required.

How would you describe your style of artwork?

I spent most of my life illustrating with fine pens and graphite pencils which were then scanned and tweaked on the computer to send onto clients and printers. My husband (who is also an illustrator) encouraged me to try working digitally on an iPad. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

My work is digitally rendered, with a focus on fashion and beauty. I think that my career as a fashion designer has given me a deep understanding of clothing, texture and print and I love to play with these elements within my illustrations.

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process behind your work?

I spend a good deal of time researching artists, designers, trends and concepts. I'm often inspired by an image or clothing and feel compelled to put it to paper. I usually work by collaging an image together to form the composition I like. Taking a pose, which is sometimes composed of a few different reference images then adding accessories/clothing etc. to this pose. I then draw up this composition in black and white, adding colour separately to experiment with the final artwork. This is the real advantage to working digitally - lots of opportunity to try different effects from the one artwork without the risk of ruining it with one wrong colour!



Who/what is your biggest influence/inspiration and why?

I have a book that my husband picked up for me in a second hand bookshop called ‘An introduction to fashion illustration’ by Pamela Stephenson. It was published in 1981 and I think it captures that essence of classic mid-century fashion illustration. I could spend hours studying it. I sit and try to draw all the practices she outlines in it. It's so beautiful and simple and the skill of her art is just mesmerising. There are so many incredible artists out there who I draw inspiration from, but I find I return to this book over and over.



What are your favourite tools to illustrate with?

My favourite tools to work with are a sheet of white cartridge paper and a fine black pen. I usually have a few images around me to work from and I love to sit and let the drawing flow. From this point however, most of my artwork is then transferred to my iPad where I use an Apple Pencil tool to sketch straight onto the iPad.


Where is your favourite place to get creative?

After many years of working at the kitchen table, we have recently moved and created a studio to work from. We built a huge big desk and filled the room with our favourite artworks and books. I put my music on loud, get a good coffee on the go and could sit there drawing for weeks on end!

It is my absolute favourite place to work and I feel really grateful for it.



Do you prefer sketching in black and white or using colour?

I have always begun all my sketches in black and white, I love the line work that a good fashion illustration begins with. When I add shading in, I love to focus on the depth of contrast that can be achieved. I think it lends itself to a really striking final piece. Colour usually comes last for me...I'm a bit afraid of colour I think.


What advice do you have for any aspiring illustrators?

I was once given a piece of advice by the modern master of fashion illustration, David Downton. He said you need to produce one drawing everyday, be it a scrawl on the back of an envelope or a full blown artwork. I've really taken that to heart and aim to scribble anything down at least once a day just to keep my hand moving. I think that constant level of practice shows over time in your work.



What’s next for Rachel McCulloch? Any future plans?

I feel as if I’ve only just scratched the surface of my illustration. I'm never really satisfied with my final images, constantly critiquing them and seeing where I could have made it better. There are so many ways I hope to improve my skills. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to work with various designers and brands over the past few years and I hope to continue with this and see my work getting better and better in the process.



Quick fire round...

Autumn winter or spring summer... Autumn winter! The layers and textures of a winter wardrobe always lend themselves to more interesting drawings.

Your favourite fashion era… I don’t think I have one. My work as a fashion designer always makes me more excited for what's coming, rather than what's already been.

The three essential items in your wardrobe… Jeans. Jeans. Jeans. What's cooler than the ultimate pair of jeans?

What's the one thing you can't live without? Coffee. I'm a millennial - what did you expect!

When I'm not drawing I’m… spending time with my daughters, my true happy place.



French Connection x Rachel McCulloch

Rachel has created 3 bespoke illustrations inspired by our new women's and men's French Connection AW21 collections. In her digitally rendered, bold style, she's intertwined hero looks from our new collection and combined them with her love of fashion, print and texture to create her illustrations. 




Discover more of Rachel's work here